Elise and I recently discussed that her choice to marry me was evolutionarily wise, as I am clearly bred for survival.
I am quick-witted and have a fast metabolism. I have perfect vision and a keen sense for danger, as exemplified by the fact that I have yet to experience a mugging on the streets of Philadelphia. I am relatively agile and have good manual dexterity, traits that serve equally well in the wild as onstage as an indie rock star. And, I have no major physical ailments other than allergies, which I probably wouldn’t have if I had spent my youth hunting and gathering.
Essentially, I am the perfect man. Yes, if not for nearly a half-decade wearing braces I would not be as strikingly handsome as I am currently. But, evolutionarily, buck teeth aren’t a deal-breaker. Otherwise, really, I’m a catch.
Or, at least, that’s my “I know I don’t do dishes all-that-frequently, but really we should still get married” platform.
However, perhaps connected to the above lack of youthful days spent out in the sun hunting and gathering, in my post-quarter-life dotage I am increasingly less a person and more just a walking collection of leper-ish skin conditions. Due to a handsome pre-existing combination of dandruff, eczema, and psoriasis, a few years ago I was moved to see a dermatologist. She combated the terrible trio handily with a series of prescriptions, but she was more interested with helping me with a problem I wasn’t even there to complain about: I had an irritated red patch next to my nose that didn’t seem to want to be moisturized away.
I had suspected it was the result of mainlining Biore pore strips every other night. My dermatologist, in her professional opinion, did not concur. Instead, she diagnosed me with the charmingly titled seborrhoeic dermatitis – “sebderm” for short – which in my opinion sounds like a sexual dysfunction that involves seepage more than a skin condition.
She put me on a fantastic little creme called Elidel, the red patch went away, and that was that. I discovered that I had been self-conscious about the patch, and was happy to see it gone.
After over a year of relative remission, in recent months I developed a new, even more charming issue on my face – scaly red blotches floating above the edges of my mouth, like some misbegotten fruit-punch smile.
They started out subtle, and I convinced myself it was the combination of my rakishly deep laugh lines and my current proclivity for facial scruff. (I also secretly feared it was herpes, mostly because now that I only make out with Elise I have precious few reasons to invoke my irrational fear of herpes.) Yet, I put off visiting the dermatologist, thinking I could make the patches disappear with Elidel, more frequent shaving, and the power of positive thought.
That plan did not work. In fact, in my procrastination the patches got angrier and… well, woundier, if we’re being frank. They edged a little bit too close to herpes territory for my liking. I also developed worse dandruff than ever before, possibly because I was constantly stressing out about my face, and I tend to massage my temples incessantly when I am stressed out. The flakes were as big as granola. It was deadly stuff.
This is my face, people. I might not launch ships with it, but I’m about to launch a fucking multi-thousand-dollar photography package with it on my wedding day, and I am really hoping I am not going to have to buy some sort of Michael Jackson-approved pancake makeup kit to cover up my various flaws.
(Also, do you trust someone to tell you about how awesome your new marketing campaign is going to be when his winning perfect smile is adorned with two possibly herpes-based open sores, and who creates a tiny blizzard of flakes every time he turns his head or rearranges his hair? And, that’s to say nothing about how incredibly compelling it is to watch a songwriter who looks like he wandered offstage in his biblical leper costume from a revival of Jesus Christ Superstar.)
Back to the dermatologist I went, secretly crossing fingers and toes that I had not caught airborne herpes from the skeevy lady who used to make my morning smoothies.
Happily, that was not the diagnosis. No, it was a newer, deadlier version of my sebderm, and it meant business. My face and scalp were put on hard-core, expensive, non-formulary drugs – steroids that warned that I might experience visual hallucinations, a shampoo that could strip chrome off a bumper, and a foam that explicitly reminded me not to use it on my genitals, lest I be tempted.
Well, folks, I am here two weeks later to report that my dermatologist was right again, and her newer, more aggressive treatment knocked the reddened and/or precipitous fight out of my head. My laugh-lines are back to their rakish selves, even with scruff, and today I pawed at my hair at-length like I was in a 90s-era Herbal Essence commercial and produced nary a flake.
Yet, with progress I have paid a price: due to my temporary run of steroids I am now proudly bearing the complexion of a high school wrestler.
Seriously. And, not just little pimples that you can contain with face-washing and salicylic acid. No. Serious acne, which I have never in my life previously experienced.
While I am happy to be rid of my red patches, my prior issue was hell of a lot less conspicuous than the current alternative – which lead one of my coworkers to ask me if someone had punched me, because the area around my right eye is so puffy and red.
Yes, that is totally progress towards the photography package.
Elise, bless her heart, has been incredibly supportive, and through this process has endured all manner of facial applications, including ones I must wear only in the dark, and others that bleached an entire set of our sheets. She also believes that doctors should be trusted implicitly, which I know to be false. Though she has gamely pretended that my outbreak is no big deal, ultimately she agreed with my diagnosis that I ought to stop the steroids a day or two before I started regaining other high-school traits like having crushes on red-heads or writing songs about how I am not actually gay.
Why? Because she loves me? Perhaps, perhaps. However, I choose to believe that it’s because – despite recent appearances to the contrary – she has a biological imperative to stick with her evolutionarily fit man.